Monday, June 4, 2012

Movie Monday: Cry Danger

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This week's Movie Monday selection is the 1951 film noir Cry Danger!

Take a trip down some seedy back roads in Los Angeles, riding along with Dick Powell as a guy recently sprung from jail...having done five years for a crime he says he didn't commit!
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Cry Danger opens with Powell, playing a tight-lipped, sardonic puss named Rocky as he gets off the train, on the first day of his new life. Of course, this being a film noir, the past is just waiting to reclaim him:
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In this instance, "the past" is a police detective named Cobb (Regis Toomey), and a one-legged ex-marine named Delong whose testimony got him released (Richard Erdman).

Cobb is none-too-sure that Rocky isn't really guilty, and is hiding the stolen loot somewhere. Delong, who drinks too much, reveals to Rocky that he made up the alibi--who would doubt the word of a wounded veteran, after all--on the hunch that Rocky really did do it as well, and is hoping to split the loot.

All Rocky cares about is clearing his name, and the name of his best friend Danny Morgan, who is still in jail for the crime. They go to a local trailer park--a real seedy joint--so Rocky can visit Nancy (Rhonda Fleming), Danny's wife and clearly a former flame of Rocky's:
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While Rocky's situation is deadly serious, he greets everyone he meets with a level of sarcasm so dry it's like a martini made of sand (how's that for hard-boiled?). Rocky and Delong rent a trailer, and the film gets a bunch of laughs over how run down the place is:
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Rocky thinks that the mastermind behind the robbery was a bookie named Castro (the great William Conrad). At gunpoint, Rocky demands $50K, but Castro refuses, instead giving Rocky $500 to bet on a fixed horse race ("I'm 60% legitimate", he proudly states).
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Shots are fired at the trailer park, and Delong's saucy girlfriend Darlene is killed. Nancy thinks it was she and Rocky who were the targets, and after some more investigating, Rocky returns to Castro, putting him through a round of Russian Roulette.

This is the movie's best scene, as Rocky spins the chamber, fires, and repeats, all as Castro sweats like a pig at an Oscar Meyer plant in July (sorry, it's easy to get carried away with the film noir talk) and spills the beans:

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Castro tells Rocky the ugly truth about the robbery, and Rocky is not happy about what he learns. Detective Cobb starts to change his mind, thinking that Rocky just might be innocent. Castro tries one last act to save his skin, which only leads to more bloodshed:
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Rocky is offered once last chance to get the money and (presumably) head out and lead a new, happy life, but he can't do it. The film ends with a deliriously gorgeous sunny Los Angeles sky, hanging in ironic counterpoint to all the smashed dreams and dead-end existences for almost all concerned.


Cry Danger is a lot of fun--the performances are all solid, from Powell to Fleming to Conrad to Erdman (who I first saw, and loved, in Stalag 17, as the annoyingly earnest Sgt. "Hoffy" Hoffman). The dialogue drips with contempt, aimed at everyone from everyone. Almost every scene has a delightful snap to it, as if the filmmakers wanted to only give us the barest minimum info needed--which is pretty much exactly how the characters behave, as well.

Throw in some long-gone L.A. scenery, some amazing period cars (Delong's ride is particularly sweet) and the fact that whole thing wraps up in about eighty minutes, Cry Danger makes for a great, diverting little slice of film noir. (Fun Fact: Richard Erdman is still around and still working--he plays Greendale habitue Leonard on Community!) It's on Netflix WI right now, I very much recommend checking it out.


This week's movie was suggested by RetroHound.com's Robert Lindsey!


2 comments:

Caffeinated Joe said...

Love films like this! Didn't read too much detail of your plot summary, didn't want to have anything spoiled. LOL - Thanks for the heads up!

Robert M. Lindsey said...

Hey, thanks for the plug! Glad you liked the movie, the dialog is what really stands out for me. Hard to believe this hasn't been given a decent DVD release.
RetroHound.com

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